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Linguistic Variables Determining the Difficulty of Eiken Reading Passages

  • HAMADA Akira
    Graduate School, University of Tsukuba/ The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

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This study examined what linguistic variables affecting the cognitive process in reading comprehension determine the difficulty of Eiken reading passages. Using Coh-Metrix, a corpus analysis of Eiken first-grade to third-grade passages was run to compute lexical (word frequency and lexical diversity), syntactic (syntactic similarity), and meaning construction indices (argument overlap and occurrence of causal connectives and verbs). A stepwise discriminant function analysis showed that surface-level linguistic variables (i.e., lexical and syntactic indices) were stronger predictors in the discrimination of Eiken test grades than the linguistic variables affecting higher-level language processing. To verify whether these results corresponded with Japanese EFL learners’ reading performance, Japanese university students completed recall tasks after reading second-grade and third-grade passages. A stepwise multiple regression analysis found that word frequency, lexical diversity, and syntactic similarity indices explained their recall productions. Consistent with the corpus analysis, the meaning construction indices did not explain the recall performances. These findings suggest that the difficulty of Eiken reading passages have probably been designed to measure learners’ lower-level language processing abilities, such as word recognition and syntactic parsing.


  • JLTA Journal

    JLTA Journal 18 (0), 57-77, 2015

    Japan Language Testing Association


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